Category Archives: Grandmother’s Memoirs

One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie, Conclusion

Kenny, Emma Lee's eldest son, playing the guitar sometime around 1967. Terry, her younger son, can be seen on the far left.

Mom was born March 16, 1891 near Ashland, Kansas. Her parents were William Tecumseh Sherman Crouch and Atlanta Bell Kitchen Crouch.  The both came from the areas near Ashland and Grayson Kentucky.  Grandpa homesteaded in Kansas where mom was born; they lived in a dug out.  Later they moved to Lahoma, Oklahoma where mom and Papa were married, then after that moved to Tuttle, Oklahoma where Papa farmed.  After farming in Tuttle, then moved to Bethany, Oklahoma (near Okla. City), to Waukomis, OK near Enid, OK on Highway 81 then back to Tuttle when Terry was a year old (1944). Mom moved to Fayetteville, AR helped cook in a girls dormitory, then she and Robert moved to Okla. City worked in O’Mealy’s cafeteria. Later she moved to Tulsa to help my brother Charles in a restaurant, then when Charles moved to Arkansas Mom and Robert moved back to Tuttle, OK. (Editors note: I count ten separate locations where “Mom” [Bessie] called home at one point or another.)

Mom was a real sweet person, she always wanted to do nice things for people.  She loved to study and read the Bible. Every Saturday she prepared dinner for someone; her food was so good and attractive.  Mom could always write the sweetest notes for all occasions. She lived to the age of 84 – died November 30, 1975 as she was taking a bath, getting ready to go to church.  She had a heart attack on Sunday morning.  On the Friday night before she died, she felt her days were numbered, so she got up in the night and wrote the instructions for her funeral.

I remember at one time in 1987 there were six of us in our 60s.  J.C. 69, Catherine 68, Charles 66, Emma Lee 64, Mary Elizabeth 63, Willa May 60; imagine having that many children in ten years!

Continue reading One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie, Conclusion

One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie, Cont. (4)

Quentin Bomgardner shown in a park, holding his first son, Kenny.

Quentin started working as a substitute mail carrier and later (about 1949) started working as clerk in the Post Office at Tuttle so we started having a little more money to spend. In February, 1956, he got a rural mail route at Amber, Oklahoma.  He carried the mail until November 15th, 1956 when he died of a brain hemorrhage; age 36, he lacked two weeks being 37.  This was a sad day for Kenny, Terry and me.  I didn’t know what I could do to make a living.  I didn’t know how to do anything but clean house.  I carried mail for 3 months at Amber, in Quentin’s place, until they appointed a carrier.  We got $125.00 per month annuity, $4,000 insurance from the Post Office, and $1,500 from Universal Life Insurance.  Since the place we lived in belonged to Grandmother Porter, we bought a house in town for $3,800. And spent $700 on it before we moved in.  Uncle Gail and Uncle Dwight helped use fix it up.  We were very comfortably situated.

Continue reading One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie, Cont. (4)

One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie, Cont. (3)

Grandmother at 15 years old, the age when she began doing all the chores and taking care of children for Dr. and Mrs. Cooper in Oklahoma City.

Editor’s Note:  If you are just beginning to read these entries, you may wish to start with the first, then the second before you begin this particular work.  Thanks, Red Dirt Kelly

During the summer of 1937, at the age of fifteen, I took a job in Oklahoma City caring for three children of Dr. and Mrs. Cooper.  I would take the train from Tuttle to Oklahoma City, then ride the interurban to within a few blocks of Dr. Cooper’s.  When I’d hear the train blow the whistle down the track [when in Tuttle] I’d start to cry because I was already getting homesick.  The first summer I didn’t come home very often.  I had Dr. Cooper save up my money until I went home to start to school.  I started out making $3.00 a week plus room and board. After Mrs. Cooper went to the hospital to have a baby they raised my salary to $4.00 [per day].

The Coopers had two girls and two boys. I’d cook breakfast, wash, iron, clean house and watch the children.  I worked for them three summers and one Christmas vacation.  I always bought clothes for school with my earnings.  The first year I bought a rust colored coat, black dress with a lace yolk and black shoes.  I thought I was really dressed up.  I made $36.00 that summer; my coat cost $16.00.

Grandmother Emma Lee at the train Station.

Continue reading One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie, Cont. (3)

One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie, Cont.

The first building raised in Waukomis. The Railroad section chief lived and worked out of it in 1889.

Editor’s Note: This series began on Monday of last week.  It most likely will run for five weeks.  Please refer to this link for the introductory information and “Entry One” of “My Grandmother’s Memoirs.”  Thank you. ~ RDK

“One Spring I was at a widow woman’s house picking up apricots. She was in the tree and hung a bucket on a limb. It broke and the bucket of apricots fell on my head. Did I ever have a big gash! She told me to run home to my mama. By the time I got there my clothes were soaked with blood. I remember all the children of the neighborhood lining up across the screened-in back porch watching Mom clean me up. I had to go to the doctor at Enid for him to dress and care for it every other day.

I had the small pox vaccination at Waukomis by a Dr. Wolfe. I always imagined he looked like a wolf, but he was pretty nice. He gave me a stick of gum and a penny because I didn’t cry.

I had chicken pox in the Spring of 1930; it was near Easter.  Our class at school was having an egg hunt, so Papa took me to the principal’s office to see if I was over them enough to go to the event. I was so happy because he said I could go!

One winter we had a big snow. Papa walked ahead of us to school to make tracks so we wouldn’t have as difficult a time getting to school.  We were always thrilled when the weather was bad and didn’t have to go home for lunch! Mom would call the grocery store and the owner would prepare a good lunch for us. One of us would go pick it up; he would make pressed ham sandwiches with buns – that was really good!

We children of the neighborhood would gather in the evening by the street light, choose sides and play a game called “Trail.” One side would hide, the other hunt. We would make arrows with chalk marking the direction we were going. Then at the point we decided to hide, we would draw a circle with arrows going all directions making it more difficult to find us.

Another time I remember was my sister Catherine and brother Charles and I went to a Methodist revival. When coming home we had to go past an opera house. We were told a little man lived under it; we were always frightened to go by. We watched the building closely!  As we were walking along Catherine slipped on the ice and I fell over her, breaking my collar bone. I was crying so loudly Catherine said, “Be quiet! That little man will hear you!”  My parents were at the door to meet us when we got there. It was so painful and difficult to wear a coat that I missed several days of school after that incident.

Continue reading One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie, Cont.

One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie

Editor’s Note:  Julie at the Ranch is, as we speak, somewhere in northwestern Oklahoma enjoying some time with friends.  Incidentally, she and I will be driving to south-central and northwestern Oklahoma tomorrow.  We’ll check in from time to time with information about what we found.  We’ll be talking to people, seeing places, and working on developing the RDC just a bit more. In the meantime, please accept this post as a substitute for her regular, “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch” work. ~ RDK


My grandmother Emma Lee, present day. I think she looks pretty good for someone who is 88 years old.

On November 13th of this year, I posted a short “Simple Sabbath” entry and described a project I had been working on for a while.  It entailed typing up my grandmother’s handwritten memoirs she recorded over a period of about twenty-two years in order for us to have a sense of our family history from her perspective.  I finished the first draft and provided her a spiral-bound copy for a Christmas present.  She will be reviewing the draft for any inaccuracies and then I’m going to go over it with an editorial eye for the final draft.  I asked her permission to begin sharing some of her memories with you, our RDC reading community, and she replied, “Oh yes, of course, honey.  That’s fine.”

And so, with that permission tucked away in my head, here is the beginning entry of her work.  I plan on publishing an excerpt on Tuesday evenings as a follow up to Julie’s posts.  I haven’t decided whether or not they will come out weekly or bi-weekly.  One more note…my grandmother wrote just like she talked.  I may keep much of this style intact, so if you see very few periods or commas, you’ll understand why.  Thanks, Kelly


One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie:  My Grandmother’s Memoirs

Continue reading One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie

Simple Sabbath: My Grandmother’s Memoirs

A few months ago I asked my grandmother whether or not she would be willing to sit down with me, allowing me to conduct interviews with her about her life.  She surprised me by saying she had already written down many of her memories; her son had asked her to do that some time ago.  Weeks later, I saw her at a family dinner and she had a yellow Spiral Mead notebook with her.  On the cover written in ink was, “1988, The Life of Emma Lee Coward Bomgardner, Bennett – Tuttle, Oklahoma.”  She told me she had to look a little while for it, but had found her work.

I took the notebook and let her know I would transcribe what she had written, clean it up a bit, then send it to her for review.  The goal was to then send it out to the family.

Last night I began the task of reading her handwritten notes.  I was surprised at how much information was there and appreciated that her narrative echoed her true voice.  Not many periods, quite a few commas, and no erasing…just, freestyle.

This job is going to take quite a bit of time, but I’ve already decided the rewards will be much greater than the investment.  She began writing at age sixty-six.  Her first memory penned was how her mother took her and her siblings to visit their grandparent’s home.  She said they had to cross a bridge in order to reach their destination and the horse balked at the idea of making the pass.  She recalls being terribly frightened as her mother wrestled with managing the horse, eventually coaxing him across the bridge.

I know that adrenaline helps embed memories, and from reading through these pages I can see how and why she might have recalled and written the stories she did.  I’m about fifteen percent through the transcription, but today after reading the struggles manifested by the Great Depression…I’m very grateful for what we have.

We are certainly a blessed nation and a blessed family.  May God continue to richly bless you and yours.

~Red Dirt Kelly

**1/16/11 Note: “One Voice of the Oklahoma Prairie: My Grandmother’s Memoirs” is now being published.  Check THIS LINK to see the posts each week until they’re finished.